Seoul's 'defence data hacked' by Pyongyang

Democratic Party representative Rhee Cheol Hee said 235 gigabytes of military documents were taken from the Defence Integrated Data Centre in September last year.
Democratic Party representative Rhee Cheol Hee said 235 gigabytes of military documents were taken from the Defence Integrated Data Centre in September last year.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL • North Korean hackers stole a large amount of classified military documents, including South Korea-US wartime operational plans to wipe out the Pyongyang leadership, a ruling party lawmaker from the South said yesterday.

Democratic Party representative Rhee Cheol Hee said 235 gigabytes of military documents were taken from the Defence Integrated Data Centre in September last year, citing information from unidentified South Korean defence officials.

An investigative team at the Defence Ministry announced in May that the hack had been carried out by North Korea, but did not disclose what kind of information had been taken.

Pyongyang has denied responsibility in its state media for the cyber attacks, criticising Seoul for "fabricating" the claims.

Mr Rhee, who is on the National Assembly's committee for national defence, said about 80 per cent of the hacked data had not yet been identified, but that none of it was likely to have compromised the South Korean military because it was not top classified intelligence.

Some of the hacked information addressed how to identify movements of members of the North Korean leadership, how to seal off their hiding locations and attack from the air before eliminating them. These plans had likely not been classified properly, but Mr Rhee said Defence Ministry officials told him the hacked documents were not of top importance.

He said the hack was made possible by "a simple mistake" when a connector jack linking the military's intranet to the Internet was not eliminated after maintenance work on the system.

Pyongyang has denied responsibility in its state media for the cyber attacks, criticising Seoul for "fabricating" the claims.

The Defence Ministry's official stance is that it cannot confirm anything the lawmaker said about the hacked content.

In Washington, the Pentagon said it was aware of the media reports but would not comment on the potential breach.

"Although I will not comment on intelligence matters or specific incidents related to cyber intrusion, I can assure you we are confident in the security of our operations plans and our ability to deal with any threat from North Korea," said Pentagon spokesman Robert Manning.

Meanwhile, cyber security firm FireEye said in a statement yesterday that North Korea-affiliated agents were detected trying to phish US electric companies via e-mails sent in mid-September, although these attempts did not lead to a disruption in the power supply. It did not specify when the attempts had been detected or clarify which companies had been affected.

FireEye said the phishing attack detected was "early-stage reconnaissance" and did not indicate North Korea was about to stage an "imminent, disruptive" cyber attack.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2017, with the headline 'Seoul's 'defence data hacked' by Pyongyang'. Print Edition | Subscribe